LOVE AND FAMILY:
The Life Story of Mavis Garland
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Ethel Frances Bradfield Nealon, Mavis Garland's mother, was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1905.
Ethel Frances Bradfield Nealon was born in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in 1905. Her parents were Katherine Oswell Hill, a British nurse, and Harold Austin Nealon, a Canadian corporal who fought in the Boer War. The two met after Harold contracted typhoid fever. Katherine, 17 years his senior, nursed him back to health. The couple fell in love and married in 1903. Two years later Ethel was born. In 1908 they moved to Canada to be closer to Harold’s family who had first immigrated to Canada from Ireland in 1840 in search of a better life.
In 1923 Henry Chu (Chu Yet Sang), a door to door salesman, came to the family’s home to sell Chinese imported goods from a shop he worked for on Yonge St. He was invited in by Ethel’s father who was always interested in other cultures. During this visit Ethel met Henry. Soon after, she began visiting his workplace accompanied by a friend. News of their blossoming relationship soon reached Henry’s parents and he was summoned back to China, where he was compelled to marry. From this marriage he had a son. A few years later, in 1933, he returned to Toronto and resumed his relationship with Ethel. Had they married Ethel would have had to relinquish her British citizenship. Ethel and Henry had three children: Michael, Dennis, and Mavis. When Mavis was 2, they moved to 62 Edward Street in the Ward. It was a rooming house run by U-Needa-Taxi Co. whose office was just two doors away. The family rented two rooms on the ground floor with the five other rooms occupied by single Chinese men.
Unfortunately, in 1943, Henry died of cancer, leaving Ethel to raise their three children on her own. Soon after his death, Ethel began running the rooming house herself and started seeing Kelly Lew (Lew Kung Chee), an acquaintance of Henry. Like Henry, Kelly arrived in Canada in 1918 and was also born in Toishan, China. Shortly after beginning their relationship, Ethel and Kelly had two children; Gene and May Lin. When Mavis was 13 the family moved two blocks north to 51 Walton St, walking distance from Kelly’s barber shop on 117 Elizabeth St. To help the family makes ends meet, Mavis worked with her older brothers who owned a newspaper stand on the corner of Dundas and Bay. She went door to door selling newspapers and making deliveries throughout Chinatown with her brother Dennis. She soon became a recognizable character in the neighbourhood.
In 1961, she married Fred Garland and later had two children, Edward and Michelle.
“People always ask me where I’m from or what I am. I just tell them I’m Canadian, but that doesn’t satisfy them until I tell them my father was Chinese and my mother was English.”
– Mavis Garland, former Ward resident and daughter of Ethel and Henry Chu